The Bushnell Park Series -- Park River Pump House  LbNA # 14793 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateApr 30 2005
LocationHartford, CT
Planted ByWild Rover    
Found By Chrissy
Last Found Jan 20 2006
Hike Distance?

The Bushnell Park Series
The Park River Pump House

***Box went missing Autumn 2005. Sorry. --WILD ROVER

In 1623 a group of Dutch traders led by Adraen Block (namesake for Adraen's landing and Block Island) sailed up the "Great River" and purchased land from the Pequot Indians where the "Little River” emptied into the "Great River." This area became known as Dutch Point (Hartford). Thomas Hooker and his band of settlers arrived in Hartford in 1626 and saw promise in Dutch Point, and made use of the Little River's proximity to their pasture land to water their livestock, causing the north branch of the river to be known as the "Hog River" for the abundance of hogs grazing in the area. As Hartford grew, the "Great River" was renamed the Connecticut River and was a major waterway for travel and commerce. The Hog River became a major source of energy to power mills and factories. As the Hog River became dotted with mills and factories like the Pratt & Whitney Machine Parts Company, the Colt Factory, The Harford Electric Company and Col. Albert Pope’s Bicycle (and later automobile) factory, the waterway became known as the "Mill River."

Unfortunately, the Mill River was not only a readily available source of hydro-power, but was viewed as an easily accessible sewer as well. The burgeoning population caused tenements to be built along the banks of the Mill River, and personal wastes were dumped in the river thinking it would carry to the Connecticut River and out to sea. The truth was that this waste, along with the industrial waste that continuously emptied into the river from the mills and factories, was causing the river to look murky and smell foul {1} {2}.

The revival of the river began with Horace Bushnell's vision to turn the smelly, unappealing area into "a beautiful scenic place, where factory workers and mothers with their children could come to enjoy themselves." {3} Horace Bushnell wanted to create a pleasing first impression of Harford travelers arriving from the south. Bushnell pushed for the construction of a public park where slums and tenements existed, and in 1854 his plan passed and the land was cleared, creating a large swath of the river's banks for the park. It is on this land that Bushnell Park was created, and from this park that the Park River took its new name. Seasonal flooding, however, challenged Bushnell's grand park, and every Spring the Park River flooded low lying lands including Bushnell Park. The great flood of 1936 inundated all of Bushnell Park and most of Harford under several feet of water, taking homes and lives and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage. {2} Although the City was able to clean up after this disaster, two years later the hurricane of 1938 nearly re-created the disastrous results as floodwaters drowned the Park and the City. The City fathers, determined to protect the City and the park from another disaster, sought help from the federal government, and in 1940 the Army Corps of Engineers began working on one of the largest public works projects in New England - burying the Park River.

The main branch of the Park River was channeled underground in a huge conduit or tunnel, a 30 by 45 foot concrete box extending under Bushnell Park and all the way to the Connecticut River. The river that once meandered through Bushnell Park now ran straight as an arrow under the center of the park, the Pump House, Polaski Circle, Main Street, the Public Library, the Conland-Whitehead Highway, and out into the Connecticut River. {2} The flood control project was completed in 1949, but after a major flood in 1955 the North and South branches of the Park River were also enclosed, this time in 22 foot diameter pipes. The nine mile long conduit was finally completed in the early 1980's at a total cost of more than $100 million. The river enters the tunnel just a few hundred feet from the Mark Twain House, and there are at least two private companies that offer an underground canoe/kayak tour of the Park River to this day. {4}

The Bushnell Park Pump House was originally built in 1947 by the Army Corps of Engineers using the brownstone from the bridges that were disassembled when the Park River was channeled under the city (of the five bridges originally traversing the river, only the bridge at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch remains). The Pump House is a slate-roofed brownstone building resembling a European cottage, and is actually a functioning pump house, continuously and silently moving the river beneath the park and aiding its flow toward the Connecticut River with massive subterranean pumps. The quaint building also houses an art gallery featuring exhibits by area artists, and is the only public gallery in a municipal park in Connecticut {5}.

The stamp is a likeness of the hogs grazing on the banks of the river that caused Thomas Hooker and his band of settlers to aptly name it the Hog River. I hope you find it, like it and enjoy it -- thanks for looking. --Wild Rover


This letterbox is part of the Bushnell Park Series planted in Bushnell Park, Hartford by MayEve and Wild Rover. The series, which is made up of six (6) semi-micro boxes discreetly planted in this busy inter-city park, made its debut at the Spring Into April Drive on 04/30/2005. Be sure to get MayEve’s “Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch” letterbox already planted in the Park. Also be sure to look for MayEve and RTRW’s “Opera At The Bushnell” letterbox at the nearby Bushnell Center For The Performing Arts. . ***NOTE: The only letterbox in the Bushnell Park Series with a logbook is the Park River Pump House letterbox.


From the entrance of the Pump House near Pulaski Circle, after admiring the Pump House’s tudor charm and slate roof, walk on the sidewalk along Elm Street adjacent to Bushnell Park. Pass a set of four benches on the left, then a set of four benches on your right, and finally a third set of four benches on the left (this is the second set on the left, but the third set in total). When you reach this third set, sit in the middle of the first (closest) bench, with your back toward the entrance to the D.E.P. building on Elm Street, and look across the Park at one o’clock to see Horace Wells far in the distance. Walk about 35 steps toward Horace Wells and stop at the Yellow-Wood tree on your left. In a hollow of the tree above eye level (can you reach it?) you will find the Park River Pump House letterbox. Please be discreet, and re-hide the hog with care, as this can sometimes be a very busy park (you are urban-boxing now). Thanks. --WR


Thanks to MayEve for helping to make this idea for an urban park series a reality, and to Shutterbug for walking the Park with us to find hiding spots for the boxes!!! -- Wild Rover




{4} “Hog River Tales” by Elizabeth J. Norman, Publisher of the Hog River Journal [ ].